The following quotes are from NFL scouts, coaches and front-office personnel, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
• "Indianapolis should have a young quarterback for the next 10 years (after the draft). Peyton Manning is coming back. If you have an elite quarterback, you have a chance every year. They have some issues on the offensive line they still need to fix, but they have a lot of offensive skill talent in place already. Jim Caldwell has done a good job with the offense. I don't think you can blame him for the problems they encountered this year. People forget — he was 14-2 his first year. Did he suddenly become a bad coach overnight?"
• "What a lot of fans, executives and even owners do not realize is how fine the line is between winning and losing in this league. You saw the play in overtime that beat the Steelers. It came down to one play. Tim Tebow made the right read with his receiver, hit him in stride, and the game is over. Go back to Tennessee vs. New Orleans (in Week 14). Jake Locker is in the game with the ball on the (Saints') five with 13 seconds left. Nate Washington just came out of the game after a great catch. Patrick Robinson is in coverage on the outside, almost falling down, and Damian Williams is wide open. Instead of reading it, Locker forced the ball inside to (Marc) Mariani, and it was knocked down. If (Matt) Hasselbeck is in the game or Locker makes the right read and they score, the Titans win the division instead of the Texans and are in the playoffs instead of the Bengals. That is how close the margin is. It's a very fine line. Blowing up the building is not always the answer."
• "The most important decision you can make as a GM is who you surround yourself with. The other key is being organized."
• "A lot of assistant coaches have too much say in personnel. That has been the case in Chicago since they brought in all the former head coaches. They wore out (former GM) Jerry (Angelo). Whoever the new GM is, he better be able to handle that group."
• "At one point, Bill Walsh and Jimmy Johnson ran this league. Then it was Mike Holmgren. If you look around now, Bill Belichick and Andy Reid are the new godfathers of the NFL. Look at how many of their tentacles are spread around the league. They have proven systems that work and they can see the big picture. When it's not working right, they dig in and fix it."
• "(Jaguars GM) Gene Smith is one of the truly good guys in the business. By hiring (Mike) Mularkey, it's clear he was trying to protect the investment in his quarterback (Blaine Gabbert). … What they need is an infusion of talent. The offense is barren. They overpaid Jason Hill. They brought back (Mike) Sims-Walker, and he got hurt. The (offensive) tackles are not very good. I love the way Aaron Kampman plays, but how many straight seasons did he finish on I.R.? From Dawan Landry to Clint Session — if you go back and look — since they blew up (Tom) Coughlin and went to Jack (Del Rio) and (ex-VP of player personnel) Shack (Harris) until now, they have made numerous mistakes."
• "I thought (Bengals QB Andy) Dalton threw the ball downfield a little better late in the year. He's not (Ben) Roethlisberger- or (Joe) Flacco-strong, but he could get the ball downfield. Colt McCoy cannot."
• "Hue Jackson wanted to be involved with the (Raiders') GM search, when he was lucky to have his job. He could have waited a few months and traded for Carson Palmer for practically nothing. I got to believe Al Davis did somersaults in his grave getting fleeced by (Bengals owner) Mike Brown. Hue Jackson was having conversations through Al Davis from the grave. He was quoting him every time I turned around. I can only imagine what he was saying behind closed doors. Al wore all the hats, so no one was witness to those conversations. Think about the position (Jackson) was in — you've got to be kidding me. He got his quarterback and lost. There are no more draft choices left. When you go all in and lose, you have to accept your fate."